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Information Collection is an important element of any kind of research study. Inaccurate data collection can impact the outcomes of a study and eventually cause invalid results. Information collection techniques for impact evaluation differ along a continuum. At the one end of this continuum are quantitative techniques and at the other end of the continuum are qualitative techniques for information collection. Bakhtadze (2012:82) ‘When you have actually decided on a topic, refined it and defined goals, you start considering the methods of gathering the evidence you need.
The preliminary question that guides you is: “What do I need to know to answer my research study issue? Why do I need it?” After you have addressed the concern you start choosing the finest methods of gathering details. Researchers next decide how they are going to collect their empirical research information.
That is they choose what method of data collection (test, surveys, focus group, observation, interviews) they are going to utilize to physically acquire research information from their research individuals.
’ University of Wilconsin (2012 )The Quantitative information collection techniques, rely on random tasting and structured data collection instruments that fit diverse experiences into established response classifications.
They produce results that are easy to summarize, compare, and generalize. Quantitative research is concerned with testing hypotheses derived from theory and/or being able to estimate the size of a phenomenon of interest. Depending on the research question, participants may be randomly assigned to different treatments. If this is not feasible, the researcher may collect data on participant and situational characteristics in order to statistically control for their influence on the dependent, or outcome, variable.
If the intent is to generalize from the research participants to a larger population, the researcher will employ probability sampling to select participants. Typical quantitative data gathering strategies include:
* Experiments/clinical trials. * Observing and recording well-defined events (e.g., counting the number of patients waiting in emergency at specified times of the day). * Obtaining relevant data from management information systems. * Administering surveys with closed-ended questions (e.g., face-to face and telephone interviews, questionnaires etc). Wikipedia (2012) In statistics, survey methodology is the field that studies the sampling of individuals from a population with a view towards making statistical inferences about the population using the sample. Polls about public opinion, such as political beliefs, are reported in the news media in democracies.
Other types of survey are used for scientific purposes. Surveys provide important information for all kinds of research fields, e.g., marketing research, psychology, health professionals and sociology. A survey may focus on different topics such as preferences (e.g., for a presidential candidate), behavior (smoking and drinking behavior), or factual information (e.g., income), depending on its purpose. Since survey research is always based on a sample of the population, the success of the research is dependent on the representativeness of the population of concern.
Survey methodology seeks to identify principles about the design, collection, processing, and analysis of surveys in connection to the cost and quality of survey estimates. It focuses on improving quality within cost constraints, or alternatively, reducing costs for a fixed level of quality. Survey methodology is both a scientific field and a profession. Part of the task of a survey methodologist is making a large set of decisions about thousands of individual features of a survey in order to improve it. The most important methodological challenges of a survey methodologist include making decisions on how to: * Identify and select potential sample members.
* Contact sampled individuals and collect data from those who are hard to reach (or reluctant to respond). * Evaluate and test questions. * Select the mode for posing questions and collecting responses. * Train and supervise interviewers (if they are involved). * Check data files for accuracy and internal consistency. * Adjust survey estimates to correct for identified errors. Advantages
* They are relatively easy to administer. * Can be developed in less time compared with other data-collection methods. * Can be cost-effective. * Few ‘experts’ are required to develop a survey, which may increase the reliability of the survey data. * If conducted remotely, can reduce or obviate geographical dependence. * Useful in describing the characteristics of a large population assuming the sampling is valid. * Can be administered remotely via the Web, mobile devices, mail, e-mail, telephone, etc. * Efficient at collecting information from a large number of respondents. * Statistical techniques can be applied to the survey data to determine validity, reliability, and statistical significance even when analyzing multiple variables. * Many questions can be asked about a given topic giving considerable flexibility to the analysis. * Support both between and within-subjects study designs. * A wide range of information can be collected (e.g., attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviour). * Because they are standardized, they are relatively free from several types of errors.
The reliability of survey data may depend on the following:
* Respondents’ motivation, honesty, memory, and ability to respond: * Respondents may not be motivated to give accurate answers. * Respondents may be motivated to give answers that present themselves in a favorable light. * Respondents may not be fully aware of their reasons for any given action. * Structured surveys, particularly those with closed ended questions, may have low validity when researching affective variables. * Self-selection bias: Although the individuals chosen to participate in surveys are often randomly sampled, errors due to non-response may exist ( Adér et al. (2008:13) . That is, people who choose to respond on the survey may be different from those who do not respond, thus biasing the estimates.
For example, polls or surveys that are conducted by calling a random sample of publicly available telephone numbers will not include the responses of people with unlisted telephone numbers, mobile (cell) phone numbers, people who are unable to answer the phone (e.g., because they normally sleep during the time of day the survey is conducted, because they are at work, etc.), people who do not answer calls from unknown or unfamiliar telephone numbers.
Likewise, such a survey will include a disproportionate number of respondents who have traditional, land-line telephone service with listed phone numbers, and people who stay home much of the day and are much more likely to be available to participate in the survey (e.g., people who are unemployed, disabled, elderly, etc.). * Question design. Survey question answer-choices could lead to vague data sets because at times they are relative only to a personal abstract notion concerning “strength of choice”. For instance the choice “moderately agree” may mean different things to different subjects, and to anyone interpreting the data for correlation. Even ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers are problematic because subjects may for instance put “no” if the choice “only once” is not available.
Wikipedia (2012)A questionnaire is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions and other prompts for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. Although they are often designed for statistical analysis of the responses, this is not always the case. The questionnaire was invented by Sir Francis Galton. Questionnaires have advantages over some other types of surveys in that they are cheap, do not require as much effort from the questioner as verbal or telephone surveys, and often have standardized answers that make it simple to compile data. However, such standardized answers may frustrate users. Questionnaires are also sharply limited by the fact that respondents must be able to read the questions and respond to them. Thus, for some demographic groups conducting a survey by questionnaire may not be practical. As a type of survey, questionnaires also have many of the same problems relating to question construction and wording that exist in other types of opinion polls.
Basic rules for questionnaire item construction
* Use statements which are interpreted in the same way by members of different subpopulations of the population of interest. * Use statements where persons that have different opinions or traits will give different answers. * Think of having an “open” answer category after a list of possible answers. * Use only one aspect of the construct you are interested in per item. * Use positive statements and avoid negatives or double negatives. * Do not make assumptions about the respondent.
* Use clear and comprehensible wording, easily understandable for all educational levels * Use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. * Avoid items that contain more than one question per item (e.g. Do you like strawberries and potatoes?). Questionnaire administration modes
Main modes of questionnaire administration are: * Face-to-face questionnaire administration, where an interviewer presents the items orally. * Paper-and-pencil questionnaire administration, where the items are presented on paper. * Computerized questionnaire administration, where the items are presented on the computer. * Adaptive computerized questionnaire administration, where a selection of items is presented on the computer, and based on the answers on those items, the computer selects following items optimized for the ‘testee’s ‘estimated ability or trait. -Wikipedia.
Org Observational study
In epidemiology and statistics, an observational study draws inferences about the possible effect of a treatment on subjects, where the assignment of subjects into a treated group versus a control group is outside the control of the investigator. This is in contrast with experiments, such as randomized controlled trials, where each subject is randomly assigned to a treated group or a control group before the start of the treatment.
Wikipedia (2012)Although, observational studies cannot be used as reliable sources to make statements of fact about the “safety, efficacy, or effectiveness” of a practice, they can still be of use for some other things: “[T]hey can: 1) provide information on “real world” use and practice; 2) detect signals about the benefits and risks of…[the] use [of practices] in the general population; 3) help formulate hypotheses to be tested in subsequent experiments; 4) provide part of the community-level data needed to design more informative pragmatic clinical trials; and 5) inform clinical practice.”’ Bakhtadze (107:2012) Observation is watching behavioral patterns of people in certain situations to obtain information about the phenomenon of interest.
Quantitative Observation involves the standardization of all observational procedures in order to obtain reliable research data.
Qualitative Observation involves observing all relevant phenomena and taking extensive field notes without specifying in advance exactly what is observed.
Bakhtadze (106:2012) A focus group is a type of group interview in which a group moderator (working for the researcher) leads a discussion with a small group of individuals to examine how the group members think and feel about the topic.
Purposes of Focus groups:
1. Obtaining general background information about a topic of interest; 2. Stimulating new ideas and creating concepts; 3. Generating impressions of products, programs, services, etc. 4. Learning how respondents talk about the phenomenon of interest; 5. Interpreting previously obtained qualitative results
A method of data collection is the procedure that a researcher uses to physically obtain research data from research participants. The method of data collection that is used in a research study is discussed in the method section of a research report. . Finally, the methods of data collection discussed in this paper work can be mixed by using the fundamental principle of mixed research to strengthen the evidence provided by a research study.
Adèr, H. J., Mellenbergh, G. J., & Hand, D. J. (2008). Advising on research methods: A consultant’s companion. Huizen, The Netherlands: Johannes van Kessel Publishing. Bakhtadze, I., 2012.Course note on Research Methodology, Department of Education, International Black Sea University, Tbilisi-Georgia. World Bank, n.d: Data Collection Methods, 2012 viewed 28th of December 2012 http://www.worldbank.org/poverty/impact/methods/datacoll.htm University of Wilconsin, n.d., Data Collection Methods, viewed 28th of December 2012 http://people.uwec.edu/piercech/researchmethods/data%20collection%20methods/data%20collection%20methods.htm Wikipedia, 2012, Questionnaire, viewed 28th 0f December 2012 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Questionnaire Wikipedia, 2012, Survey Methodology, viewed 28th 0f December 2012 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_survey Wikipedia, 2012, Observational Study, viewed 28th 0f December 2012 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observational_study
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